HISTORY will not rest. The order Hitler and Stalin imposed on half a continent almost half a century ago is being challenged in a flare-up of ethnic passions long considered spent. In their secret agreement in 1939 in preparation for war, the dictators charted their ``respective spheres of influence.'' Poland would be carved up (``territorial and political rearrangement''), with the lion's share coming under Soviet sway. The renewed strikes and demonstrations in Poland reflect, in essence, the continued refusal of the Poles to accept the legitimacy of the regime that Stalin imposed on their country.
The democratic Czechoslovakia of Eduard Benes and Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, liberated from the Nazi occupation, was taken over by Stalin in 1948, and invaded again by Leonid Brezhnev in 1968 to crush an experiment in ``socialism with a human face.'' In my last broadcast from Prague on Sept. 28 that year, I said, ``It is hard to remember those heady pre-invasion days when freedom was in the air.'' The despairing intellectuals I met then could hardly have imagined that 20 years later, deposed Premier Alexander Dubcek would be speaking out, Czecks and Slovaks would be marking in memory ``the Prague spring,'' and that, even in Moscow, there would be demonstrations to recall the Soviet invasion.
In the Soviet Union itself, Stalin's heritage has returned to plague Mikhail Gorbachev with riots in Nagorno-Karabakh. As Lenin's commissar for nationalities in 1922, Stalin, with the stroke of a pen, transferred this predominantly Armenian enclave to the Republic of Azerbaijan. Two generations later, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh want Stalin's deed undone.
Recently, there have been large-scale demonstrations in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, annexed by Stalin. The USSR has never really digested the alien cultures it swallowed. Western correspondents weren't even allowed to visit these lands before 1957.
The United States never accepted the Soviet annexation of these states, and all these years has continued to recognize their exiled legations in Washington. Lithuanian counselor Stasys Lozoraitis told me that he was not surprised by the recent explosions of popular passions in his country. But not many would have predicted a short time ago that the Soviet-German attempt to redraw the map of Eastern Europe would come back to confront a new generation of rulers in Eastern Europe.
In all these lands, the new generation has an eye and ear to the Western news media. It has somehow resisted a half century of immersion in Soviet propaganda. Somehow the yearning to speak their own languages and rule their own destinies has survived. History does not rest.
Daniel Schorr is senior news analyst with National Public Radio.